1. Encourage your child to view the start of the year in positive terms. We want the beginning of school to be a time to which kids look forward, not dread. Emphasize all the great things that a new school year brings, such as the opportunity to make new friends, meet new teachers, learn interesting new content, and participate in new after-school activities.
2. Re-establish school bedtimes a few days in advance. Waking up early on the first day of school is a mighty tall order for kids (and teachers) who have been sleeping later during the summer. Gradually returning to school bedtimes over a period of days makes this adjustment quite a bit easier.
3. Re-establish school breakfast times a few days in advance. This suggestion goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Because eating a healthy breakfast is so important for a child’s ability to focus in the classroom, we want to ensure that kids are able to consume a complete meal before heading off to school.
4. Ensure your child has all needed supplies. Many schools send home a supply list over the summer or just prior to the start of the new year. When you purchase these supplies, take your child with you. Buying their school supplies increases children’s ownership of the process and can mentally help them get back into “school mode.”
5. Review last year’s final report card to recognize areas of strength and identify areas that need improvement. Highlighting strengths will raise children’s self-esteem and build confidence. Noting improvement areas will provide a foundation for the next suggestion, goal-setting.
6. Begin to set general academic or behavioral goals with your child. Perhaps the most powerful way to bring about improvement in any aspect of life is to set goals and measure progress over time. You do not need to go into too much detail at this point because classroom teachers frequently begin the year with some form of goal-setting. A nice general discussion of two or three meaningful goals will be sufficient to sharpen your child’s focus and build motivation.
7. Build in some daily academic work during the last week or two of summer. It is easy for kids to get away from daily reading when they are out of school. Before the new school year begins, it is a great idea to establish consistency and make reading a daily habit. Reviewing math facts and exercising their writing muscles is also recommended for kids who might not have done much academic work over the summer.
Steve Reifman is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher in Santa Monica, CA. He is also the acclaimed author of several books, including Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time and Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8, and the creator of the Chase Manning Mystery Series for kids 8-12. For tips and strategies on teaching the whole child, visit http://stevereifman.com.